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Next Version of SMS to be Fully Active-Directory Integrated

The next release of SMS, officially dubbed “SMS 2003,” will not merely extend AD—it will become one of a handful of Microsoft products to be directory-enabled; SMS 2003 will also offer significant arc

When Windows 2000 was first released and the benefits of Active Directory’s IntelliMirror were being extolled by Microsoft’s marketing department, there were many in the industry who declared Microsoft’s Systems Management Server (SMS) a dead product. After all, they reasoned, who would need SMS now that most of its functionality had been built into Win2K? Indeed, while Microsoft declared that SMS was still a viable technology to “extend” the desktop management features of Win2K, it appeared that SMS was viewed internally by Redmond as the neglected stepchild of the BackOffice family; a legacy technology most suitable for “downlevel” clients. Even as recently as last year’s Altiris’ SMS & Windows 2000 Users Conference, it was unclear how much the next release of SMS, codenamed Topaz, would integrate with AD. At the conference in 2001, the SMS development team was forced to spend a significant amount of podium time reassuring the gathered faithful that Microsoft wasn’t abandoning the product.

The official line regarding SMS at May’s Microsoft Management Summit was significantly more upbeat. The next release of SMS, officially dubbed “SMS 2003,” will not merely extend AD—it will become one of a handful of Microsoft products to be directory-enabled; that is, SMS 2003 will actually modify the AD schema if an administrator so chooses.

SMS 2003 will offer significant architectural changes, although the Admin UI and basic functionality will remain essentially the same. For administrators who choose to modify the AD schema when installing SMS 2003, the marriage between SMS and AD will include the following advantages:

  • AD system discovery—Objects in any AD container can be discovered and utilized by SMS.
  • AD user discovery—All AD users, groups and OUs can be discovered by SMS and used for targeting software distributions.
  • AD site integration—In addition to SMS sites being defined by subnets, SMS 2003 can use AD sites for site boundaries.
  • Global roaming for new mobile client—The schema modification will allow SMS clients to roam from one site to another without being reconfigured.
  • No more domain controller modifications—Schema modification will allow clients to find SMS servers by searching the Global Catalog.

For administrators who choose not to modify the AD schema when installing SMS 2003, there will still be a host of Win2K and/or XP improvements, such as:

  • Mobile client support—Mobile clients are a new category of SMS clients that will use HTTP for connectivity to SMS sites and will have a much smaller client footprint than the standard client.
  • BITS or “Drizzle” support—The mobile client will utilize Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) for software distribution, which is bandwidth sensitive, allows for checkpoint restarts of interrupted software installations, and features an optional “download and execute” mode for receiving software distribution packages.
  • Advanced security mode—Eliminates the use of the 80 gazillion SMS local accounts.
  • Utilization of Add/Remove Programs Control Panel—As an alternative to the separate Advertised Programs Manager CP for software distributions.
  • Increased support for MSI—MSI packages will automatically become SMS packages. The SMS Installer will provide native support for MSI repackaging.
  • More robust replication—Utilization of file-level delta replication of packages between sites and to Distribution Points within a site.
  • No more Crystal Reports—The extensible SMS Web Reporting will be built-in.
  • Revamped software metering—Will provide offline metering and usage reporting. No more separate database, site servers or Admin console.
  • Remote desktop support—For XP clients instead of the existing remote control technology.

SMS 2003 is scheduled to go into beta this summer.

About the Author

Mark Wingard, MCSE, MCT, CTT, works as a desktop management specialist for a major research laboratory. He’s been a network professional for more than 14 years, an MCP since 1992 and currently designs AD implementations and SMS deployments.

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